The Metro Theatre is one of the more intimate venues but on Friday night people were definitely getting close and personal for Rag’n’Bone Man’s Splendour Sideshow.
I walked in to a purple haze of the packed theatre with support act hip hop artist L-FRESH the LION signing off after spitting what I’m sure were some fire raps. The crowd was very noisy and energetic and with having a drink split all over the back of me within the first five minutes I knew people were ready to have a good time.
Right on time and out of the darkness came the man himself Rory Graham aka Rag’n’Bone Man. A large portion of the audience were British showing how much home support the Englishman had and he did not disappoint. His first song was “St. James” from his Bluestown album, which started the night off slow and set the mood with the electric guitar and just him and his gravelly voice. The band then came in to provide the beat for “Wolves”. With everyone now feeling the funk with Graham singing, “I never wanted a war, You still have a gun to my head,” in that howling tone before slowing it down to focus on his voice with such soul as he sings the words, “She doesn’t need another heartbreak”.
After taking a break to thank everybody for coming out and a beautiful reception he introduced the band then jumped into “Ego”, with that sweet piano that had everyone singing along especially the lyrics, “Baby I know my gospel but I ain’t a preacher”, as if they were all in a gospel choir themselves. The switch in the song to rap gets you every time.
Graham’s back up singer Desri needs a special mention with her voice complimenting his perfectly especially in the call and response of “Your Way or the Rope”.
Already using some colourful language during his chats with the crowd he says sorry about his language before quickly realising, “Oh wait, I don’t have to apologise to Australians. You all don’t give a fuck about swearing!”.
“The Fire” had such emotion with a guitar solo that had Graham and most of the audience rocking out before a dramatic end with the drums. An older one of his, “Hard Came The Rain”, had his haunting low voice and a beat you could feel in your chest. Big dance breaks had everyone clapping with the almost country feel. “Lay My Body Down” was slow and smooth picking up with the beat with Graham’s big voice still holding strong.
He asked, “How are you guys doing? You still with me?”, but people struggled to hear him over the yells and cheers. He decided to chill it out a little bit with “Perfume” that had piano accompanying his voice in a softer way after joking that the song wasn’t about murder, well not this one anyway. The mood changed when he introduced “Life in Her Yet”, talking about his wonderful grandmother who he lost five years ago saying it was a song celebrating women. You could see him really feeling the lyrics but surprisingly the song had a lighter feel. He ended it by clutching his chest saying, “I’ve sung that song hundreds of times but it still gets me in the throat when people like it”.
Being as honest as he is he described how he got super high one night and had a vivid dream where he told a girl he loved her at sixteen but she didn’t want to hear it. Instead he thought about turning negatives to a positive and the result was “Grace”, which was definitely a crowd favourite.
Wanting to do things a little different as usual he did a new take on his well known single “Skin”. It was quiet and meaningful before the chorus came in with everyone to give you chills. He had to laugh out loud half way through with the crowd constantly yelling out compliments. The roof felt like it was about to come off as everyone erupted in cheers and singing with him sticking to his no censorship rule commenting, “You are all fucking crazy”.
Dedicating the song to the audience “As You Are” is a song that simply wants to make you want to smile with a cool soul gospel feel. Switching to his old album Wolves, “Guilty” was fast paced paired with very aggressive growls in his voice. The time had come for his hit song “Human” of the same name as the new album and it sounded even better in person. That heavy beat and high notes he can hit had you unable to hear from the applause it received.
Now while it is amazing to see the love Rag’n’Bone Man had received all night the rowdiness sort of took away from a powerful accapella version of “Die Easy” that Graham performed before the stomping started for one more song. The band returned to the stage. Drink now in hand and Graham grooved hard to “Bitter End”, with a perfect song name choice to finish off with, or so we thought.
“This will definitely be our last one as I’ve got to fuck off to bed,” he proclaims before getting everyone to Hell Yeah. A perfect segue into the track of the same title. Lots of levels to the song with amazing guitar and almost reggae vibes shows he really can do it all.
With that he says, “Sydney, you are a lot of legends. See ya later!”. As cliché as it sounds I’m going to say it anyway, he is a big guy with big personality and an even bigger voice that really makes the whole show. Seeing him live is an experience everyone needs to try to do.